Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Campaign Battle Frontiers

My latest playtesting has convinced me to change the way ai attacks happen in the upcoming GSB campaign. Previously, there was a complex system involving local threat levels, which changed over time based on the strength of your fleet combined with the number of enemy-controlled systems linked to your world by hyperspace warp tunnel thingies.
And that works fine, and its cool, and mostly staying.

But what was happening was that you would conquer a system, push forwards and conquer the next system, and there was still a threat ‘behind the lines’ to recently conquered worlds. That was fine too, but I also coded a little ‘unlikely but possible sneak attack’ system whereby any of your worlds could get attacked at any time. If you didn’t have a big fleet sat there, this would be unopposed, you would lose the system, and maybe now have a gap in your supply lines.

Frankly, in game terms, this is a pain in the exhaust-port. It’s frustrating and annoying to lose a system behind the lines, and it’s wasteful to keep a fleet in every system just in case. The good old ‘pushing-back the frontier’ system is better.

I’ll keep the gradually lowering threat level thing, but ditch the sneak attacks. Once you have conquered a world, and parked a big-ass fleet there for a few turns, you can mvoe on and not fear losing it. It is, after all, a big map to conquer.

On an unrelated note, can whoever codes the cursor stuff at ATI get their shit together please? Multiple monitor setups in windows 7 are basically chaos with an ATI card. Random cursor corruption when swapping monitors, and an invisible cursor if it goes into text carat mode and back again on the secondary montior… These are not new bugs, from what I read, so why are you tweaking drivers to get an extra 1 FPS on starcraft when you should be fixing basic windows functionality? Bah!

Strategy game specs are going mad

I just saw the recommended system reqs for Civilisation V.

  • Operating System: Windows® Vista SP2/ Windows® 7
  • Processor: 1.8 GHz Quad Core CPU
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Video: 512 MB ATI 4800 series or better, 512 MB nVidia 9800 series or better
  • What?


    512MB video cards and quad core, for a turn-based strategy game? The min specs…

  • Operating System: Windows® XP SP3/ Windows® Vista SP2/ Windows® 7
  • Processor: Dual Core CPU
  • Memory: 2GB RAM
  • Video: 256 MB ATI HD2600 XT or better, 256 MB nVidia 7900 GS or better, or Core i3 or better integrated graphics
  • That’s still crazy. We are talking MINIMUM specs here, for a geeky turn-based game. GSB has high specs (for me) because of the real-time battle playback shinyness, but I’d still think they are lower than this.

    I like games like CIV, but ultimately these games are not about the graphics. I just cannot imagine where the processing power is going. This trend to make the campaign maps of strategy game run at 10 FPS just boggles my mind.  What about all the strategy geeks with old PCs or laptops and no interest in buying new ones? Don’t people want their money?

    Someone with the min spec above, tell me how GSB runs for you. Please tell me it runs fine or I’ll look a right dork :D

    Lightsabers and Prejudice

    “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of midi-chlorians, must be in want of an empire”

    See what I did there? I was eating a currant bun when I came to the conclusion that Revenge Of The Sith is one of the best films ever, mainly due to the fact that DVDs have a ‘skip’ button which lets you fast forward through the slushy annakin / padme scenes. Normally, that would just make me a typical action-film loving bloke who is bored by romance, but I’m not. One of my favorite films is the Kiera Knightly version of pride and prejudice. So I got thinking that in a perfect world, if you spliced the dialog and romance from P&P into the visuals of ROTS, you would have the perfect movie. Frankly, Jane Austen has a lot to learn from George Lucas, and Lucas has a lot to learn from Jane Austen.

    Take the opening scenes. A group of elegantly dressed women gossiping by a church. Meh. George at least knows how to start his stories with some decent space battles. Ok, so Attack of the clones starts slowly, but even then a spaceship explodes in 3 minutes, so it’s not a total loss. Spaceships exploding is like zombies or boobs, there is no movie not improved by their addition. Even P&P has cleavage.

    Now the dialog, the dialog for star wars isn’t classic. “I’m luke skywalker I’m here to rescue you!”. it’s not classic stuff. Lets not even discuss Jar-Jar. Jane Austen has the whole dialog thing sorted, with several different layers of meaning and subtlety going on all the time.  Jane Austen can represent the inner turmoil and angst of someone like Mr Darcy effectively and convincingly. Should he propose to Lizzy? George would have a scene where he had a bad dream, shaking his head from side to side saying “NooooooOOOOO!”. This would not be good.

    “I’m luke skywalker I’m here to rescue you”

    Conflict. Now in a  sense, it’s a score draw here. Austen handles the dialog and the emotion much better, but Lucas has the bigger context and the visuals. If Lizzy marries Mr Collins the family will be safe from poverty, but her marriage may be unhappy. Oh The angst! If Luke doesn’t hit the exhaust port, the empire will triumph and evil will conquer the galaxy. Lets face it, Lucas wins here. He also does well when it comes to villains. Mr Wickham runs off with a young girl and marries her without her fathers permission. Meh. Grand Moff Tarkin incinerated the planet Alderaan. Let’s face it,I’d rather have wickham as my nemesis than Tarkin.

    Lucas has his moments with high drama. Vader telling luke he is his father wasn’t *that* bad, but even then the dialog is pretty shaky. He always compensates with the visuals. I reckon that if whenLizzy was told mr Darcy proposed against his better judgement, she lept off a bridge and flew through an exhaust port in cloud city, it would really add drama.

    And lets look at the big ‘conflict’ scenes in pride and prejudice. Mr Wickham nods at Mr Darcy, and Darcy rides off on his horse. Feeble! Lucas would have had both of them on landspeeders, and after a high speed chase, they would have fought each other with lightsabers.

    “I’m find the countryside most diverting”

    When lady Catherine visited Lizzy to chastise her for trying to ‘seduce’ My darcy, the dialog is excellent, but the setting is amateur-hour. Two women with raised voices using polite language in someone’s garden? Lets be honest, just because the scene is at midnight doesn’t make it dramatic. Ideally, Lady catherine would have expressed her dissaproval using force lightning, countered by lizzies prowess with the lightsaber. If it was possible to somehow change the setting from the Longbourne estate to…. say a planet of lava, then that would be even better.

    I think I’m on to a winner here. When I get a chance, I’ll email george lucas and ask if I can do a game called ‘Pride and Wookies’. If he says yes, I’ll get right on it.

    Gratuitous Cat Picture

    It’s not my next game, but it is exactly what it says. I’m very busy doing tech support and business stuff, and debugging, and campaign coding and…. etc etc. So I’ll blog properly tomorrow… maybe. In the interim, here is a picture of jack, my youngest and most bitey cat.

    Jack says thankyou for all the games purchases that paid for his tuna.

    Posted in cats Tagged

    The fine line between marketing and addiction in games

    I don’t normally blog just to link to someone else’s writing, because that kind of bugs me, but allow me this rare indulgence. This is worth a read:

    It’s a bit one-sided. I don’t like the moaning that virtual items ‘never existed’. Just because something is encoded digitally does not mean it has no value, even if the scarcity is artificial. (I own a ‘limited-edition’ print of a painting of a native american dancer, on the wall of my office. That’s artificial scarcity, and nobody minds that…).

    But given my beef with that specific complaint, it’s still an interesting read. I’d hate to think people spent too much money, money they didn’t have, especially if they got into debt… on my games. I need to earn a living, but I don’t need money enough to risk getting people addicted to something just to line my pockets.

    There is a fine line between clever marketing and design, and exploiting psychological tricks to wring every last penny from addicts. Modern companies of all types need to pay attention to that line, and not cross it.